Friday, April 11, 2008

Spinach - "We plunge it in cold water, boil it, and then force it on our children.”

“An exotic from Persia, it was brought by the Moors to Spain, by the Spaniards to the Low Counties, by Flemish refugees to England. And after that great pilgrimage, we plunge it in cold water, boil it, and then force it on our children.”

I like what Robert Carrier says about spinach. This is a vegetable that has been forced on generations of children, presumably because of its reputation as an iron-rich wonder food. The trouble is, in our house, the ‘this is good for you’ approach is the kiss of death. All Freddie cares about is that his vegetables taste good.
So we took a brave step.

The Great Big Vegetable Challenge went on the road to test out our spinach recipe with the gardening club at Freddie’s school. On a small patch of land in front of the school, the children and their teachers have created their very own Garden of Eden. They dig, sow and weed with devotion, oblivious to the distant thunder of the Great Western Road. Through the year there are beetroot, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, rhubarb, pumpkins, chard and spinach. Little notices announce the progress of the garden. It reminds me of the official notices posted on the gates of Buckingham Palace. ‘It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of a runner bean that succumbed to a green fly infestation’ or ‘the tallest sunflower broke all school records.’ There is something uplifting about a vegetable garden in the middle of a city. With the school gardeners I made rainbow chard pizzas and spinach fritters. They picked the chard and spinach leaves and washed them in the kitchen. The braver ones munched on the raw spinach leaves, flexing their biceps like Popeye. Once heated, spinach has Houdini like qualities. You think you’ve put a huge quantity of bright green leaves into a pan and within seconds in a cloud of steam the leaves disappear, leaving behind a dark green stringy slime. It is the escapologist of the vegetable kingdom. Slime is a complete turn-off for Freddie. With the spinach fritters, I cut the freshly picked leaves into thin strips, added them to the batter and quickly cooked them in a little oil in a hot pan. The young gardeners waited by the cooker like hungry puppies. They took their hot fritters out into the rain to enjoy. Judging by the speed with which they were consumed, spinach fritters passed the taste test with flying colours. And there was no hint of slime, the spinach staying bright green and succulent inside the fritter. Freddie’s score was ten out of ten. I think we are on a fast-stream these days with the scoring. A year into the Great Big Veg Challenge and he can hardly remember what it was like to really hate vegetables...

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If you or your local school have a gardening blog or website, let me know and I will create a blogroll for people working in allotments and gardens to encourage children to learn how to grow and cook vegetables. Meanwhile - How do you like your spinach?

Spinach Fritters

Serves 6-8

100g of fresh spinach leaves

230g of self-raising flour

2 tsp of caster sugar (optional)

4 eggs, separated

1 clove of garlic, chopped finely

350ml milk

75g butter, melted

Cooking spray oil or 2-3 tbsp olive oil.Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a large bowl and beat. In another bowl whisk together the egg whites until they form soft white peaks. Sift the flour into the bowl with the egg yolks, add the milk, melted butter and caster sugar. Mix together with a wooden spoon until it forms a smooth batter. Finely chop the fresh spinach so that it is in thin strips. Add to the batter along with 1 finely chopped garlic clove. Then gently fold in the egg whites. Make the fritters in batches of four in a large frying pan. You may need to have a bit of kitchen towel to hand to clean the pan of any burnt oil in between batches. Spray the frying pan with cooking oil or add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat the pan. When the oil is hot, drop in four to five dollops of batter, spacing them apart in the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes and when you see the edges begin to brown, flip them over to cook the other side. Wipe the pan with some kitchen paper and add a little fresh oil for each batch. Be warned, these may be consumed with undue speed....


  1. This is my favorite spinach recipe. My mom learned it from a Greek friend and it has been my favorite ever since.

  2. Spinach is a great vegetable to include in a children's garden, as it is a vigorous cut-&-cum again veg, with such bright green leaves.
    Spinach fritters are an excellent recipe to make it worth growing!
    Please include us in your blogroll!
    Best wishes

  3. I love the combination of spinach and mushrooms like in this soup or as a filling for crepes. Spinach is absolutely wonderful with lentils- as in spinach dal.
    Your fritters look absolutely tempting...

  4. Ursula L3:43 PM

    In the cookbook "Indian Cookery" by Madhur Jaffery, there is a spinach and lamb curry (Saag Gosht)that I think Freddie would love. It is a family favorite for introducing people to Indian food, and it has coverted both spinach-haters and lamb-haters into enjoying those foods.

  5. That is hilarious (the forcing spinach quote). Actually, spinach is the one vegetable that EGirl has banned from the house (I aquiesced but said she needed to at least try the others like Freddie ;) -- but much to my amazement when ordering pizza the other day, she ordered spinach on it. Are you sure? I asked. Yes, she said. I hate spinach *except on pizza* !! May have to try fritters too (and she ate spinach lasagna up last night, a plateful, without any urging, 'even though i didn't like it very much').

  6. Ben - We made your favourite Greek Spinach recipe for lunch today and we will be blogging very shortly on it. Many thanks for the idea - it is so kind that you left your comment.

    Top Veg - We will of course mention your site on the blogroll -Spinach fritters are the best intorudction for kids who think they might hate spinach.

    Nupur - I want to make Dal - do you have a good recipe to try?

    Ursula - Thank you - We will try it - I am trawling the internet for a good lamb and spinach curry. Will try the wonderful Mamta site
    I think.

    Mamabird - Lovely to hear from you. Glad that E-Girl is doing so well with her vegetable eating. She is such a great example. Try her on the fritters - as they are a great base for a whole load of vegetables...

  7. I love cooked spinach with a little butter, some (OK, lots) of freshly grated parmesan cheese and a tiny bit of salt. Unfortunately, it still looks a little slimy (unless you put enough cheese on top to disguise that, but boy it tastes good!

  8. My son really wanted a green smoothie so I made one with yoghurt, mango, banana, and frozen spinach. He loved it. I will have to try those spinach fritters, they sound delicious.

  9. Betsy
    I like the idea of a green smoothie - though I cant imagine that Freddie as yet would be as brave as your son!

    Suzanne - I will try your simple method - with the parmesan on top. You never know....

  10. I must have been a strange child, because as afr as I can remember back I have loved spinach. My mum always made creamed spinach, served with potatoes and a fried egg. That meal will always take me back to this day. This is one of my favourite ways of having spinach these days (I say one of my favourite ways tough as there are many, I just love spinach.):

    [url=]Saag Aloo[/url]

  11. Sorry, that didn't really work. I gotta learn html one of these days.

  12. These fritters do sound like something I'd like to give a go, but I still love a delicious spinach salad of any kind:D

  13. Ursula L7:05 PM

    I hope you like the spinach and lamb curry. Try to find one that uses lamb shoulder, and a longer cooking time, rather than the ones that are a quick spinach sauce over more quick-cooking cuts. The slow cooking of the meat in the spinach infuses the spinach with lamb flavor.

    If I have time, I'll post my family's variation of the Jaffery recipe to my blog (we use frozen spinach, which is just as good for slow cooked recipes, and saves a lot of effort) and post a link to it for you.


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